From the Wrong Side of the Tracks...CHAPTER 17 | 1987- South African Narcotics Bureau


1987- SANAB (South African Narcotics Bureau)

I wanted to work at the Narcotics division of SANAB. However, SANAB consisted of three divisions. The Vice Squad, the Liquor Squad and the Drug Squad. It was required that you start your probation at the Vice Squad. After probation, you could then move to Liquor Squad and from there to the Drug squad. Of course, that was, if you survived your probation.

Vice Squad

The Vice Squad was all about prostitution and pornography. All of which were illegal. The Government Gazette (a publication used by the government as an official way of communicating laws and statutes to the general public), even specified the length of a dildo and vibrator! No shit, this is all true. The shops that sold these devices were visited by the Vice Squad on a regular basis, and the devices they sold were measured. If the size wasn’t according to specifications published in the Government Gazette, a spot fine would be issued and the shop owner’s license was forthwith revoked. The same policy applied to certain types of condoms. If as much as the look was undesirable, it was there and then banned.

The pornographic videos, also known then as blue movies, were illegal if there was any sign of penetration during a sexual act. We searched many houses after receiving information that the owners possessed pornographic videos. The owners of these videos were quite innovative in devising hiding places for these videos. Fines, for being in possession of pornography, differed. Normal sex was not such a heavy fine, but if animals “bestiality” or minors were involved, you were looking at a jail time. Luckily, I never found any child porn during my time in the Vice Squad. I know I would have caused serious harm to a person owning such a video.

The clubs where the prostitutes operated from were called Escort Clubs. It was just an eye blinder. The owners always stated that their customer pays the club a fee to take a lady out as a companion for an evening.

What then happened between the lady and the customer had nothing to do with the club and they couldn’t take responsibility for that as they were not on the premises and the rules were that the customer was not allowed to entertain the escort on the premises. That was a lot of bullshit, but we had to prove it. We had a register of all the Escorts in town and the club they worked from. Both her real name, as well as the name she used while escorting, were recorded in the register. They had to come and register at the SANAB offices. When we raided the clubs and found an escort on the premises that was not registered, the owner would get a fine and the club could also be closed down. During my three months’ probation, working at the Vice squad, a few girls from the neighborhood I grew up in came to register with SANAB.

When they saw and recognized me, I heard the biggest excuses you could think of. We also trapped them by using police reservists that acted as clients, booking an escort and then taking her to a hotel. In the hotel room, the vice squad cop will hide in a cupboard or under the bed. The conversation would be about what services the Escort could offer. The trapper was not allowed to talk about price. Once the escort has fixed a price for a certain act, the cop will jump out of the cupboard or sail from underneath the bed and make the arrest.

Prostitutes walking the street at night were also trapped. One vice squad member would hide in the boot of a vehicle while the other one was driving the vehicle as bait, looking for prostitutes who would want a customer. The prostitute would walk up to the car and get in. Once she fixed a price, the cop in the boot would jump out and make the arrest.

Although we used unmarked police vehicles, the prostitutes knew our vehicles. We had to improvise as we did not have a pool of vehicles that could be used as trap vehicles. Luckily, I became friends with a well-known car dealer in town. He always assisted us by lending us any vehicle we needed from his used car lot. His vehicles were used in several drug deal- and prostitution traps. He really went out of his way to assist us. He was and is a good and kind man. We are still friends to this day.

The immorality act was also still in power, so whites and blacks were not allowed to have sex with each other. It was easier to charge them both for public indecency when they were caught having sex in their cars in a public place. This usually took place after hours in the dark parks or deserted parking lots.

Liquor Squad                                                                                    

I was not interested in the vice squad and after my three months’ probation. When I was asked if I wanted to stay on at vice or move on to liquor, the decision was easy. I moved on.

The liquor act was brutal. The license holders could be charged and fined for many offences provided in the act. The work comprised visiting liquor premises and see that they adhered to their conditions stipulated in the act. The places and people selling alcohol without a license were trapped and charged. All the liquor found on the premises during the raid was confiscated and destroyed. This was a bigger sentence than the fine, as we sometimes confiscated thousands of rands worth of liquor. I had some good laughs whilst working at the liquor squad. One of my colleagues was a real Afrikaans speaking guy. English was never his strong point.

Every year, the East London scholars that finished their final year school exams would go out to a certain hotel at a coastal resort. And every year there were complaints from the parents that the kids got drunk and the girls pregnant while celebrating there at this specific hotel. The majority of them were under the age of eighteen and the Hotel was not allowed to sell them alcohol. It was obvious, though, that the hotel sold them alcohol. We decided we would go out as a team and raid the hotel while the kids were there. We got together at the office that specific night.

During the briefing, it was decided that the Afrikaans sergeant would be in charge of this operation. We travelled together in two of our mini busses and arrived at the hotel at about 22h00. The party was in full swing and drunken teenagers were stumbling around all over. We also noticed that they were buying alcohol from the hotel bar. After taking a few of them aside and asking them for proof of age, we discovered that every single one we spoke to was under the age of eighteen. It was time to confront the license holder. Our sergeant in charge led the way to the reception area.

Arriving there in full force, the receptionist got the fright of her life. The sergeant started speaking in English by introducing himself as a police officer and informed her we were from the police liquor squad.

He said, ‘Mam, I am looking for the driver of this hotel.’

What he actually meant was that he was looking for the manager of the hotel. Being Afrikaans, he translated ‘bestuurder’ directly and instead of manager, said driver. There was a dead silence amongst the rest of our guys.

The receptionist said, ‘You mean the manager, sir?’

He answered, ‘Yes, bring him with also.’

We couldn’t keep it in any longer and burst into loud laughter. Some guys were holding onto tables, they were laughing so much.

All the Sergeant said was, ‘Wat is die fokken grap?’ (‘What is the fucking joke?’)

The manager came to reception, and we pointed out to him, that the selling of alcohol to minors was illegal. We closed the Bar down and the hotel was charged. On the way back to East London, the guys were still laughing. The sergeant grumbled East London was much to English for his liking.

Drug Squad

After two months with the liquor squad, I was on the drug squad. At last! I have arrived at the squad I wanted to be working with. Despite all the training in the other squads, here you had to prove yourself once again before you were given a fast car to chase and arrest drug syndicates bringing in bags of cannabis (Dagga) from the former homeland of the Transkei.

White drug users and dealers

My first instruction was to investigate white drug users and arrest them. Some of them were turned into informers with the aim of getting to the dealers and arrest the dealers. I quickly had a vast pool of informers and made many arrests. I firmly believed that a detective without informers was as useless as tits on a bull. I recruited informers from all walks of life. From the old ladies running boarding houses to barmen to shebeens (illegal liquor outlets). And also prostitutes and many others.

I made the first LSD arrest in East London. Five (5) Micro dots (shown in the third picture hereunder). The drugs were hidden in the seam of the accused’s trousers. On conviction, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), also known as acid, is a psychedelic drug known for its psychological effects. This may include an altered awareness of the surroundings, perceptions, and feelings and sensations and images that seem real, though they are not. LSD was first manufactured in 1938. It was a chemical discovered in a fungus. In 1947, it was introduced as a commercial medication for various psychiatric uses. In the 1950s, officials at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) thought the drug might be useful for mind control and chemical warfare and tested the drug on young servicemen, students and others, without their knowledge. The subsequent recreational use by the youth culture in the Western world during in the 1960’s resulted in its prohibition.

To this day, LSD currently has not been approved to be used in medicines. It was and still is used mainly as a recreational drug. LSD is typically either swallowed or held under the tongue. It is often sold on blotter paper with a sugar cube or gelatin. It can also be injected. In pure form, it is odorless and clear or white. As little as 20 to 30 micrograms can produce an effect.

The most common immediate psychological effects of LSD are visual hallucinations and illusions (colloquially known as “trips”). Trips usually start within 20 to 30 minutes of taking LSD orally and last up to 12 hours.

Negative experiences, referred to as bad trips, produce intense negative emotions such as irrational fears and anxiety, panic, attacks, paranoia, rapid mood swings, intrusive thoughts of hopelessness and wanting to harm others and suicidal ideation. It is impossible to predict when a bad trip will occur. Good trips are described as simulating and pleasurable and a typically involve feelings of being afloat, disconnected from reality, feelings of joy or euphoria (sometimes called a rush) decreased inhibitions and the belief that one has extreme mental clarity or superpowers.

Some individuals may experience flashbacks. Flashbacks are a reported psychological phenomenon in which an individual experiences an episode of some LSD subjective effects long after the drug has worn off. It often persists for months or years after hallucinogen use.

With the help of good informers and police trappers, I also made my first cocaine arrest, resulting in a conviction. The accused received a 7 year prison sentence. Cocaine and LSD were at that a very rare drug in East London and very expensive. The most common drugs that were in use were dagga and mandrax. On many occasions, I did the deals myself without using a trapper, but you quickly become known amongst the dealers and users.

Although I took my work very serious by trying to get the drugs out off the streets, I experience some funny moments.

One incident that I found hilarious happened one morning in the suburb nicknamed “gun town”. The same suburb I mentioned earlier, whereas a young constable I had the hardest smack of my life planted on my ear by a drunken woman.

A white drug dealer lived in Gun Town. Despite being an old man, he was extremely shrewd. In the past, when we raided his premises and found drugs, there was always somebody else that would own up, saying the drugs belonged to him or her. Although we know that to be untrue, we could never pin the drugs on him as the owner. He was a legend in the area and a kind of boss amongst the drug dealers and users. I once checked his criminal record and saw that his escapades and clashes with the law started already as far back as in the 1940s. He always challenged me, saying that I will never arrest him. Always up for a challenge, I told him that his time was running out.

I came up with a plan and one Monday morning at about 06h00, a time during which a squad visit that neighborhood would be unlikely, I parked my police vehicle a few blocks from his house. My partner and I walked to his house. We approached it from the back and as we got closer to his back wall, I could smell the cannabis smoke in the air. I jumped over the wall and there in the backyard sat my old suspect in a chair with a big joint in the hand, reading the daily newspaper. I walked up to him and took the big joint (cannabis cigarette) he was smoking out of his hand.

He had the shock of his life and in a stuttering voice, he told me he was just reading about me in the newspaper when I jumped over the wall. As I played rugby for the police, we had a rugby match that past weekend and there was an article about the game and my name was mentioned for scoring a try or something. We searched his house, and I found two arms of dagga (cannabis) in his kitchen cupboard. I charged him for dealing in dagga, as the weight of the two arms was over the presumption that it was for his own use, so it was not a possession case anymore. That was the end of that challenge between us.

He received 14 months imprisonment and died three months after his release from prison of an asthma attack at his house. I worked in this suburb, often arresting many of the drug dealers and users. They even gave me a nickname amongst themselves by referring to me as the sheriff of gun town. I found this hilarious, and it became a joke amongst my colleagues at the drug squad.

I recruited many informers from that area and frequently, the information received led to big drug busts.

One incident that I will never forget, as it is a very comical story, was the time when my trap money was flushed down a toilet. It all started with information I received that a drug dealer was in possession of compressed dagga bricks. He was living in a suburb in East London called Vincent.

Now, with a drug deal, it is very important that you get your trap money back, as you have to use it as evidence in court. The serial numbers of the trap money were written down or notes were photocopied as evidence. Once you made the arrest, you had to find your money on the accused and then show him the numbers you had taken down and that it corresponded with the numbers on the money that was found in his possession. In other words, he has the trap money, and he has to explain how he came to be in possession of your money.

In this incident, I used fifty-rand notes. I had a buyer, or trapper as we called them, and had given him instructions and handed him the notes. He was going to buy dagga bricks from the dealer for the amount of a thousand rand. The serial numbers were recorded, and the trapper left to go and buy the dagga.

After twenty minutes, he came back and handed me two bricks of dagga. He told me what I needed to hear, and we raided the house of the dealer. As we entered the premises, a steel gate prevented us from surprising the dealer, so we had to call him to the door to come and unlock it for us to gain entrance to the house. We called him and identified ourselves. I heard the toilet flush, and I knew he was destroying evidence of the drugs and my trap money. After threatening to break the house down, he came and opened up the steel door. I rushed to the toilet but could find nothing in the toilet.

He denied selling the dagga and or receiving any money. After we searched the house, we found another fourteen blocks of dagga bricks hidden in the grocery cupboard. It was a good bust, but my trap money was missing. For the amount of dagga we found, I knew I could still charge him for dealing as anything over 115 grams were considered dealing. If I could find my trap money, the sentence was going to be a lot stiffer. It would be proof he was a drug dealer. The accused was arrested and still denied that he received any money or destroyed my trap money by flushing it. I detained him after charging him for dealing in Dagga.

The next morning early, I visited the sewerage farm just outside East London where all the sewerage runs into big dams and a sort of sifting process takes pace. The place stunk to high heaven and could be smelled from a mile away. I spoke with the man in charge and enquired about the time span of sewerage coming from the Vincent area into his capture dam. He laughed and told me that the chances were very slim of the notes arriving in one piece. He said that he will keep a lookout and informed me it would take about three days for the sewerage from that suburb to reach the capturing dam. I left there with very little hope.

In the meantime, I heard the accused had appointed a local lawyer that was well known to us at SANAB, as he often defended some of the dealers we arrested. He was a talented lawyer, but not very well liked by any of us in the drug squad. I knew his client will tell him he destroyed the trap money and that the lawyer would advise him to plead guilty to possession of dagga only,. He would argue that his client had the dagga for own use and not for dealing, as there was no money found.

About a week later, there was a phone call from the man at the sewerage farm. He wanted to see me as he has found something. I rushed to the sewerage works. I walked into his office. On a line, clipped by a washing peg, was one half of a R50 note. The serial number was visible.

I quickly checked the serial number with the numbers I had and it matched one of my numbers. I was overjoyed. The note stank like no tomorrow. I placed it in an envelope, thanked the man from the sewerage farm, returned to my office and entered the half a fifty rand note into the exhibit file and placed the envelope in the exhibit safe. The morning of the case, I met up with the lawyer in the courtroom. He was full of smiles. He told me and the prosecutor we had to accept the fact that they were pleading guilty on possession only.

Earlier that morning, I brought the envelope with the money to court and handed it into court as an exhibit. The prosecutor handed the envelope over to the lawyer and said that he should open it, look and compare the serial number on the note to the number in the case docket, smell it and then plead guilty to dealing. He was dumbstruck. He compared the serial number in the docket with the one on the bank note and as soon as the court case started, they pleaded guilty to dealing in dagga. The accused was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for dealing in 4 kilograms of dagga. The ghastly smell of sewerage pervaded the air in the courtroom after the envelope was opened.


Whilst working at arresting the white drug users, I had some strange encounters with weird people. Many East Londoners do not know it, but during the 1980’s, East London was the world headquarters for the Satan worshippers.

Not that we at SANAB targeted them, but the majority of these Satanists were smoking dagga and using drugs. That was how we collided and became known to each other. At one stage during a specific month, my partner and I arrested more than twenty of them. I say them. That includes the ones wearing black clothing and others being the self-confessed Satan worshippers.

I am by no means an expert in the ways of the occult, and I am not interested, but I had a few experiences which taught me that the true satanic worshippers did not wear black clothing. These were youngsters using it as a cult or just wanted to be different. There was a police lady working at another branch that had an interest in these youngsters calling themselves Satan Worshippers. She was a very religious lady with a strong faith. Her goal was to lead them back to the Christian faith. She heard from one of the SANAB members that we were arresting plenty of these Satan Worshippers. She came to see me at the office and asked if she could accompany us the next time we go out on a search and arrest evening.

I was not very keen on her going with as I had no interest in the doings of these people and their beliefs. I did not care if it was Alter boys or Satanist if they had drugs, I arrested them.

She accompanied us a few times and every time we made an arrest and this person was dressed in black and said that they were a Satanist, she interviewed them and tried to lead them back to church. After her interview, we charged and detained them. The next time we saw them would be in court.

It was mostly for possession of dagga that we arrested these people. One evening, I received information that a satanic priest was living in a suburb close to where I lived. The information received was that the alleged priest was in possession of a large quantity of dagga. I called on this police lady and asked her if she wanted to witness this arrest. She came with us.

The satanic priest was a woman. I entered the room in which she was. She made noises and said things I did not understand. As she approached me, I saw she had scissors in her hands. I took out my pistol and held it next to my side, telling her to drop the scissors. But she carried on advancing on me. I called to my colleague. He came rushing to the door of the room. Whilst I was retreating, I said to him that if she attacks, I’m going to shoot her. Here we had two big cops retreating from a young woman with a pair of scissors, but I can honestly say that there was something evil in her face, something neither me nor my colleague had ever seen before.

We called out to the police lady who and asked if she could try to convince this woman to put down the scissors. Strangely, the satanic priest woman listened to her. Then threw the scissors with such a force that it stuck into the cement wall. We also arrested the man with her for being in the house where the dagga was found. I did not want them in my car, so I called a police patrol van to collect them and take them to my office. Before we left, I took a walk around the house and discovered a deep pit in the backyard. Shining my flashlight into it, I noticed a lot of carvings dug into the walls of the pit. I pointed it out to the police lady. She said that it was all satanic symbols and signs.

As the police van arrived, the male suspect looked at me and said, ‘the night will get you’. I pushed him hard into the van and closed the door as the van drove away to take them to my office. He shouted again, ‘the night will get you.’

At the office, there were no more threats. We charged and detained them. The next day, they appeared in court and were released on bail. The police lady, in the meantime, contacted a Major in Port Elizabeth. He investigated crime related occult activities. It is not a crime to believe in the occult or any other religion, but sometimes Satan worshippers would sacrifice animals. I know this for a fact as I have seen the results, but I also heard and read newborn human babies which were sacrificed during some of their rituals. However, this I do not know for a fact.

The Major drove down from Port Elizabeth and the police lady showed him the pit with the satanic symbols and signs. She later informed me that our suspect must have been quite high up in the order as a satanic priest, as they are the ones that do the digging of the pit and the carving of the symbols. That was the end of that episode. Or so I thought.

About a week later, I was sleeping at my house. When I woke up, it felt as if I was being pushed down onto my bed and that something had me at the throat. I was wide awake but could see nobody on top of me. I tried to fight back, but I could not move. Something held me down for a while and then I felt it left me. I saw something floating out of my bedroom. I have never mentioned or talked about this incident before, but maybe it is time.

I immediately knew what it was all about. I got dressed, took my pistol, and got into my police vehicle. I drove to the house of my new Satanic ‘friend’. In the boot of the police vehicle, I had a pickaxe handle fashioned out of fiberglass. I had taken it away from a drugged Chinese gentleman one night at a hotel after he threatened to smash everybody in the Bar with it. It so happened that it found a permanent place in the boot of my car.

When I got to my destination, I took it out and carried it with me into the house. The door was unlocked. The same as it had been before. I was going to return the visit I had. I went through the entire house, but luckily, the male I arrested with the satanic priest was not there. I smashed everything in the house with the pickaxe handle. Cupboards, beds, microwave. Anything I could find. I left the house. I am sure that the message was clear. Both satanists skipped bail and were never re-arrested. As far as I know as they were never seen in the East London area ever again.

Amoure Kleu Author, Andre Els Chapter 17, From the wrong side of the tracks South African Narcotics Bureau

Image by Gorgev from DepositPhotos

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